Smith v. United States
337 U.S. 137 (1949)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Smith v. United States, 337 U.S. 137 (1949)

Smith v. United States

No. 292

Argued March 4, 7, 1949

Decided May 31, 1949

337 U.S. 137

Syllabus

In a prosecution for violations of the Second War Powers Act and for conspiracy to violate the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, petitioner claimed immunity under § 202 of the latter Act, which incorporates the immunity provisions of the Compulsory Testimony Act of 1893. The charges involved misuse of priorities for materials and conspiracy to sell goods at above-ceiling prices. The claim of immunity from prosecution was based on testimony given by petitioner before an examiner of the Office of Price Administration in response to subpoenas issued by that office.

Held:

1. Petitioner having claimed and relied on his privilege from the beginning of his examination, and his testimony, in part at least, having borne directly on the subsequent charges, he was entitled to immunity from prosecution. Pp. 337 U. S. 146-149.

2. Petitioner's immunity from prosecution on facts concerning which he was compelled to testify was not waived in this case by a subsequent "voluntary statement." Pp. 337 U. S. 149-152.

(a) Although the privilege against self-incrimination may be waived, a waiver is not lightly to be inferred. Pp. 337 U. S. 149-150.

(b) A witness cannot properly be held after claim to have waived his privilege and consequent immunity upon vague and uncertain evidence. P. 337 U. S. 150.

3. As to the conspiracy charge, petitioner testified concerning transactions, matters, and things substantially connected with parts of the conspiracy; his testimony was not wholly exculpatory, and he was entitled to the claimed immunity from prosecution. Pp. 337 U. S. 152-153.

169 F.2d 56, reversed.

Petitioner's conviction on charges of violating the Second War Powers Act and of conspiring to violate the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942 was affirmed in part by the Court of Appeals. 169 F.2d 856. This Court granted certiorari. 335 U.S. 882. Reversed, p. 337 U. S. 153.

Page 337 U. S. 138

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